Thoughts on Ruth Part Nine
Transcribed by Daniel Goldman from a shiur delivered on 27 April 1999: This is the only Megillah that doesn’t address either humanity as a whole, or the Jewish People as a whole. Kohelet, or Ecclesiastes, addresses issues that all human beings have to deal with – the limitations of being a human being, facing death, etc. At the very end, it addresses the Jewish People. Shir Hashirim, The Song of Songs, is about the relationship God has with the Jewish People which is compared to the love between a bride and groom. Megillat Esther concerns the entire Jewish People because Haman tried to destroy the entire Jewish People. Eicha, or Lamentations, also concerns the entire Jewish People because it address the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. Ruth seems to be a limited story. It concerns the story of basically one family and, as we discussed last week, the disasters that befell them. We will see that on the surface there is not a direct connection between their sins and their punishments.
We have to remember that the Book of Ruth is an introduction to the idea of Malchut. In Halacha and Hashkafah, a king is called “The Grand Incorporator.” Rambam, for example, lists the restrictions put on a king. He cannot own too many horses, he cannot have too many wives, and there are limits to how much gold and silver he can have. The Torah is very concerned about the heart of the king being corrupted because the king is the heart of the nation.
On the one hand, the king has tremendous arbitrary power over the Jewish People. For example, the king can draft young men when ever he wants, he can confiscate land, raise taxes, and impose his will as he pleases. On the other hand, we know that Moses was considered a king. He is called the king of the Jews, as it says, “And he became a King in Jeshurun when the leaders of the people assembled, the tribes of Israel together.” (Deuteronomy 33:5) Although some understand the king to be God, many understand it to be referring to Moses. So even though the king has tremendous power, it doesn’t necessarily play out in his using it. It’s not supposed to. Rambam says that he is supposed to be the most humble of all people in the nation because he is representation of the nation, not himself.
Therefore, when reading the Book of Ruth, we must keep in mind that it all refers to the development of the Davidic family, which yields David and eventually, the Messiah. In fact, Ruth is called Eim Hamalchut, the “Mother of the Kingdom.” Not the Mother of the King, but “of the Kingdom.” So much so, that when Solomon first sat on his throne, he placed a chair right next to his, and slightly above, for Ruth to sit on. Moreover, David is called “The Sweet Singer of Israel.” In the Psalms, he speaks for all the Jewish People. The Gemara asks, where did he get it from? Since Ruth brought David into the world, David satisfied God with songs and praises. He had a capacity to put all of this together, and derives all of this from Ruth.